EastMont’s Peters is playing and coaching
ELLISTON — Blake Peters is an athletically versatile young man.
Played varsity basketball a couple of years for Eastern Montgomery High School, mans multiple positions for his small school’s baseball squad — in brief, he’s the kind of guy every team needs.
If ever a team needed an all-around performer with leadership skills, the Mustangs baseball nine is certainly one. With a 10-0 slaughter rule loss to Radford on April 27, EastMont lost its 25th-straight contest to fall to 0-14 this year.
Peters, the Mustangs’ best player and only senior, has been there for every one of the defeats during the current streak.
This year, he has done what he could, producing as a hitter with a .367 average and also toeing the pitching rubber for all the Mustangs’ most challenging opponents. In the latter effort, his 58 strikeouts in 41 innings leads Timesland.
You wonder then, what else can anybody ask this young man to do for his struggling baseball team? As it turns out, the answer is a lot.
Add now to his resume “coach.”
You can’t say this is an emergency hire because Peters makes not one cent from this endeavor. Why jeopardize his amateur status? The Mustangs still need a pitching ace and middle-of-the-order bat. Besides, EastMont already has a head coach, first-year appointee Joe Shively.
The man needs help, though.
“We couldn’t find another assistant,” said Shively, a playing alumnus of the program in happier times.
The one they have now is working out as well as he has as a player since transferring in from Hidden Valley for his junior season. This particular afternoon earlier this week, Peters was hitting grounders as the team took infield.
“Attaboy,” Peters hollers at a nice play at shortstop. “Way to stay with it.”
There was never a question that Peters would stay with baseball even having moved from one of Timesland’s powerhouse programs to one of its most downtrodden.
“People are great here,” he said. “They accepted me when I came here really well. You see boys who want to play baseball and want the program to be really good. If I’d seen kids who really don’t care, I wouldn’t have wasted my time playing.
“These kids want it. They want to win. They don’t want this school to be the laughingstock of the district.”
Peters sure looks the part of a coach. Out on the field, he’s bigger, stronger, and older than the rest of the players.
It’s regrettable to refer to a senior in high school with a cliche such as “elder statesman” or some such. Still, the supply of terms is limited for the only 12th-grader on a dozen-man team that includes six freshman and a couple of sophomores.
Peters’ accomplishments haven’t come without a substantial measure of personal sacrifice.
“He’s taken time out from working on his game to help the freshmen with their swings, stuff like that,” Shively said. “He’s been a godsend, I’ll tell you that.”
Peters doesn’t even mention anything he may be missing out on to help somebody else.
“I’d like to coach; I love doing it now,” he said. “I like to see them get better, especially at this school. It’s been rough. It’s great to see the boys interested in it.”
The 2011 season was difficult. Not everybody was taking the proper approach. The level of commitment from some could have been better. It had been a long slog here in this sport with not much to show for it in a number of seasons. Shively is the third coach in as many years and fourth in the past six. A Mustangs assistant coach last year, he vows he’ll stay at his current post to see through the job of returning respectability to the program.
Peters sees progress with the infusion of talent among the underclassmen, particularly freshmen Dakota Kidd, Mike Waltz, Josh Howard, Collin Smith, Cody Bowers, and Austin Gilmore.
“It’s a younger group so these guys really didn’t have to go through all that last year,” Peters said. “They want to win.
“They’re putting in the time. We may not win now, but they’re getting better. They’ll work hard for you and that’s what I like.”
Among the juniors, Kendall Sisson, who is hitting .368, appears poised to take over team leadership once Peters is gone.
By then, Peters expects to be at Roanoke College, where he’ll have an opportunity to continue playing baseball, or at a private golf academy he has been looking at with the aim of setting the stage for later career opportunities.
Meanwhile, he keeps hitting in the middle of the order, spotting his fastball to go with a wicked curve, coaching bullpen, and hitting fungoes. All that and maintaining hope and high spirits to boot.
“We’re getting better,” he said. “Maybe we’ll win a couple this year.”
The Roanoke Times | 381-1672
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